Playing For Change was founded in 2002 by Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke. Producers Johnson and Enzo Buono traveled around the world to places including New Orleans, Barcelona, South Africa, India, Nepal, the Middle East and Ireland. Using mobile recording equipment, the duo recorded local musicians performing the same song, interpreted in their own style. Among the artists participating or openly involved in the project are Vusi Mahlasela, Louis Mhlanga, Clarence Bekker, David Guido Pietroni, Tal Ben Ari (Tula), Bono, Keb’ Mo’, David Broza, Manu Chao, Grandpa Elliott, Keith Richards, Toots Hibbert from Toots & the Maytals, Taj Mahal and Stephen Marley. This resulted in the award-winning documentary A Cinematic Discovery of Street Musicians.
Mark Johnson was walking in Santa Monica, California, when he heard the voice of Roger Ridley (deceased in 2005) singing “Stand By Me“; it was this experience that sent Playing For Change on its mission to connect the world through music.
The founders of Playing For Change created the Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.